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The English page - The form is looking better

Donjah, winning the Gr1 Preis von Europa, Clement Lecoeuvre on board. www.galoppfoto.de - Sandra Scherning


Daniel Delius


Ausgabe 632 vom Freitag, 21.08.2020

The Grosser Preis von Baden last September was the race that really put Ghaiyyath (Dubawi) on the map, when he scored by 14 lengths from Donjah (Teofilo) and Laccario (Scalo). At the time it looked to be possibly just a flash in the pan, especially as Ghaiyyath then flopped (on very soft ground) in the Arc. However the form looks much better now, as Ghaiyyath is now unbeaten in three starts in 2020, in three of the most prestigious races in the British calendar, the Coronation Cup (run this year because of the coronavirus) in Newmarket, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and this week the Juddmonte International at York, in each case making all the running and defeating top class opponents (including Enable at Sandown) with ease. He is now rated the best horse in Europe (and probably the world) over middle distances; Battaash, who runs tomorrow (Friday) is rated slightly higher-but is a five furlongs specialist so the two are never going to meet on the racecourse.

From the German point of view, the form of the Baden-Baden race has also been boosted by the runner-up Donjah, winner of last Saturday´s Group One Preis von Europa at Cologne. Donjah, a 4yo filly bred by Gestüt Karlshof, was a 100,000 euros BBAG yearling and looks a bargain now. She runs in the colours of Darius Racing, the nom de course of Dr. Stefan Oschmann (CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck) and his Iranian-born wife, who are now well established among the top owners in Germany – and also breeders as they also have some broodmares and breed under the name Anahita Stables. Donjah has been trained throughout by Henk Grewe in Cologne, and Saturday´s success was the second in three years in this race for the trainer, owner and breeder following Khan in 2018. In fact since then and Iquitos` win in Munich in November 2018, it was the first German success in a Group One race (leaving out the 2019 German Derby and Preis der Diana, in which there were no foreign runners). This victory was thus doubly welcome.

Donjah followed up her second place in Baden-Baden by running third in last year´s Preis von Europa – form which also looks better now following Aspetar´s Group Two success at the last York meeting- and then winning the Group Two Gran Premio del Jockey Club in Milan. She has had her fair share of problems and has only run nine times in all. She was ridden with great patience by Clement Lecoeuvre (confirmed this week as Darius Racing´s first jockey) who held her up at the rear of the field as Holloie Doyle set a very steady pace on Dame Malliot (Champs Elysees), one of two British runners in the race who started 2-1 joint favourites. The other was Godolphin´s Barney Roy (Excelebration), who had won Munich´s Grosser Dallmayr-Preis three weeks earlier. The race was still wide open two furlongs out, where all seven runners were still in with a chance. Dame Malliot was not stopping, but 3yo Kaspar (Pivotal) had her measure at the distance, by which time Laccario (Scaleo) – having his first race of 2020 and clearly needing it badly-  and Czech challenger Nagano Gold (Sixties Icon) had disappointingly dropped out of contention.

Kaspar looked the likely winner inside the final furlong, but Donjah was now in full flight on the wide outside and in the end cut him down quite comfortably althoiugh the winning margin was only a neck. Dame Malliot kept on for third place, half a length back, with Barney Roy, who clearly found the distance too far (as his pedigree strongly suggested) just held Grocer Jack (Oasis Dream) for fourth; there was only ay length and a half between the first five, with Nagano and Laccarion well back. It was certainly an exciting finish, but Donjah deserved this success. The aim for her this season was to win a Group One, and “anything from now on is a bonus,” as Henk Grewe said. She has entries in the Grosser Preis von Baden and Prix de l´Arc de Triomphe, however a start in Baden-Baden depends on the going: “she is much better on the soft,” reports Grewe, “and won´t run unless there is ease in the ground.” The handicapper was impressed, with the foreign runners, particularly the two Newmarket challengers, proving reliable yardsticks. Donjah has been put up to German GAG 96.5 (=international 113) her highest ever rating, and Kaspar has gone up to 97.5 (115), which makes him theoretically the best 3yo currently in training in Germany. He finished fourth in the German Derby, just behind Grocer Jack, but was promoted to third following the latter´s disqualification after testing positive for coffein. This was Donjah´s second start of the year; a month earlier she had been a feeble fourth in the Group Two Hansa-Preis at Hamburg, which explains the fact that she was the longest outsider in the field here, paying 153-10. She is certainly a smart performer, but will need to improve again to have any chance against Ghaiyyath, Enable and co in the Arc.

On Sunday the action moved a few miles down the Rhine to Düsseldorf, where the main feature  was a listed race  for fillies and mares over 1400 metres. The field of ten included three runners from France, while the seven locals included four three-year-olds.  However the easy winner was the 6yo British-bred mare Song of Life (Poet´s Voice), who had been bought out of a French claiming race for 23,200 euros in February. She had run an excellent race last time out at Hamburg, when runner-up to Godolphin´s Half Light (Shamardal) in a Group Three event with Sanora (Soldier Hollow) a close third; as Half Light had in the meantime run second to the top class Watch Me (Olympic Glory) in the Group One Prix Rothschild at Deauville, and also Sanora had won a Group Three at Düsseldorf, this form certainly looked good enough for this race, and she duly won very easily after making all the running – often the best tactic at this track. French-trained Dathanna (Dubawi) – another Godolphin hope looking for some cheap black type, finished second, and another French runner Celestissime (Camelot) third – the three-year-olds were never in the hunt.

This weekend we have racing at Halle tomorrow (Saturday), Hanover on Sunday and Mülheim, with listed races at the two last-named tracks. At Hanover it is a mile race  and looks very open, although 6yo Wonnemond (Areion) must have a good chance. He was lucky to have been awarded a listed race last time, after the first past the post tested positive to a forbidden medication, but at his best he is group class, and very few of his opponents can claim that. At Mülheim the listed event is for fillies and mares over 2000 metres and Nicolas Clement´ s 4yo French raider No Tinc Por, only beaten a neck by Half Light (see above) earlier in the season, may be good enough. Most valuable face of the weekend is the BBAG sales race for 3yo´s over 1750 metres at Hanover; these sales races, 17 in all, still have the full prize-money – usually, as here, 52,000  euros-  as most of the money was put up in 2018 by the breeders and consignors at the sales, and so this race has attracted a large field of 15 runners of varying ability. Our tip is Sovereign State (Soldier Hollow), who has been running respectably but without much success against better opposition than he meets here.

Dacid Conolly-Smith

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